For too long the denizens of our fair city have identified themselves as losers because of the struggles of our professional sports teams, but perhaps we turned a corner in 2012. This was a year of victory for both the Reds and Bengals, as the two teams will visit the postseason during the same year for the first time since 1990 — when the Reds won the World Series and the Bengals won their last playoff game — and just fifth time ever. While Fountain Square hasn’t been booked for a celebration of the feat, we have witnessed winning in the Queen City in 2012 and, for now, that’s certainly something to celebrate.
We here at CityBeat are looking back at 2012 in this week’s issue, and it’s been a marvelous run in the sports world, as well. There were plenty sporting memories to hold onto, as well as things better forgotten, so let us remember 2012 as we ready for the year ahead.
Playoffs? No, Jim Mora, we are talking playoffs. With the Bengals’ victory in Pittsburgh Dec. 23, Marvin Lewis is headed to the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in his tenure, and the Bengals have now reached the postseason in three of the last four seasons. Meanwhile, just east of Paul Brown Stadium, the Reds ran away with the National League Central for their second playoff appearance in the last three years. While neither team has won a home playoff game since the 1990 season, they at least had a chance — and that’s the first step. In addition to 1990, the Bengals and Reds both made the playoffs in the 1970, 1973 and 1975 seasons.
Disappointment: It would be insincere to mention the playoffs without bringing up the fact the Bengals flopped against the Texans last January and the Reds blew a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five series to the Giants, with all three losses coming at Great American Ball Park.
Local boy made good: The year started out with a good omen, when Cincinnati native and career Red Barry Larkin was elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Induction weekend in Cooperstown in July was such a Cincinnati affair, it seemed odd that LaRosa’s wasn’t served.
Small market, schmall market: The Reds have made a splash each of the last two offseasons with big trades — for Mat Latos following the 2011 season and for Shin-Soo Choo this month. But the biggest shocker from the Reds braintrust was the 10-year, $225-million extension signed by Joey Votto before the start of the 2012 season. The Reds are in line for a new TV contract before the 2016 season, and the expected windfall has already been spent on the team’s franchise cornerstone. The deal should keep Votto in a Reds uniform for the rest of his career.
How ’bout them Dawgs? Two former college teammates at the University of Georgia have teamed up again in Cincinnati, giving the Bengals the NFL’s best defensive tackle and wide receiver in Geno Adkins and A.J. Green. Both made their first Pro Bowl appearances this past year and both are expected to make many more.
Conference shuffle: The latest round of conference realignment in collegiate athletics could impact the city of Cincinnati more than any other. Not only is UC’s conference, the Big East, losing its relevancy in the college football world with the Bearcats apparently being left behind, one of the biggest beneficiaries could be Xavier. With the breakaway of the so-called “Catholic 7” schools from the carcass of the Big East, Xavier is in prime position for a conference upgrade.
Three-year itch: Like clockwork, it seems like the UC football coach goes three-and-out. Butch Jones was the latest Bearcat football coach to use Nippert Stadium as a springboard, finding himself at a bigger school after three years in Clifton, just as Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly did before. Give credit to Whit Babcock, who moved quickly to upgrade his coach, hiring Tommy Tuberville.
• Golden: Middletown native Kayla Harrison was an inspiration to the entire nation, not just because she won the United States’ first-ever gold medal in judo, but also the courage she showed by sharing her story of sexual abuse as a teenager.
Restoration job: Mick Cronin has done one of the country’s best rebuilding jobs, returning UC basketball to the top 10 nationally. After years of digging out of the hole he inherited, Cronin is proving critics (like myself) wrong and building a powerhouse program.
And that’s not all, we also saw Moeller win another football state title, Homer Bailey’s no-hitter and a civil Crosstown Shootout. It was a fantastic year in sports and 2013 promises more of the same. Despite the lack of a major championship that many moan about, we still have a thriving sports scene and more on the horizon for the year to come.